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    Call of the Wild Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Fox

    Dec 01 2013 05:03 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Jack London’s The Call of the Wild is one of those books that crosses the path of most school children at some point during their educational careers. William Wellman’s 1935 screen version borrows a few names and incidents from the book, but it’s basically a new tale of Yukon gold prospecting at the turn of the 20th century. The stars are glamorous and the direction explicit in telling its adventurous story of lost and found (gold and romance, among other things).

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 12/03/2013
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    After losing his money in a high stakes poker game, Jack Thornton (Clark Gable) happens on old pal “Shorty” Hoolihan (Jack Oakie) who has seen a map of a fabulous gold mine which he’ll need help locating. Jack and Buck aren’t alone on the trail: an avaricious prospector named Smith (Reginald Owen) looks like trouble, and once on the trail, Jack and Shorty meet up with Claire Blake (Loretta Young) whose husband went wandering off in search of food and has been missing for two days. It happens that Mrs. Blake knows the exact location of the mine, so the boys take her along, aided as they are by the leader of their dog pack, an enormous St. Bernard/Scottish Shepherd mixed breed with the strength of ten regular dogs. And the group will need all that strength and some good luck, too, as the wilds of Alaska can easily take its toll on their resources and temperaments.

    In turning the story from an adventure tale focusing on Buck to a mix of adventure and romance with the focus on the burgeoning love between Jack and Claire, the script by Gene Fowler and Leonard Praskins walks a careful but successful line giving each side of the story equal attention, and William Wellman has directed with his customary expertise a narrative which emphasizes male exploits (though a great ladies man in real life, his best films seemed to be male-dominated). The major highlights from the book for Buck – his 100 yard pull of a thousand pound load and the “call of the wild” for a female wolf – are also both highlights of the film, and one is also surprised that the writers have not sought a conventional happy ending for the lovesick Jack. (Of course, in the book, he meets an entirely different fate.) By adding Jack Oakie’s Shorty to the story, the film has comedy, action, and romance, a pretty unbeatable combination.

    Clark Gable was among the biggest male stars in Hollywood when MGM loaned him to 20th Century Pictures to make this movie, and his star quality blazes forth in every frame. Jack Oakie, the supreme scene stealer deluxe, certainly earns his title in the movie making his rather stock character loads of fun. Loretta Young, twenty-two during the film’s production, is gorgeous at all times in the standards of the era where leading ladies didn’t look disheveled even in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Reginald Owen hides his treachery nicely in the early sections of the movie, and Frank Conroy has a decent moment or two as Claire’s husband John. Look closely and you’ll see future Charlie Chan Sidney Toler as a dog salesman in early scenes in the movie.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film’s 1.33:1 aspect ratio is delivered faithfully in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The scrumptious picture belies its almost eighty years of age: sharpness is quite wonderful (except in some of Miss Young’s glamour close-ups and some soft stock footage), and the grayscale features really crisp and clean whites. If the black levels aren’t the deepest possible, they’re still more than acceptable. There are no age-related markings at all in this very impressive black and white transfer. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is a very good representation of the sound quality of its era. The dialogue, sound effects, and music by Alfred Newman are blended skillfully to avoid any intrusions of one on the others. If there is a slight bit of low level hiss on quieter occasions, it’s not ever a problem.

    Special Features: 2/5

    Audio Commentary: film historian and biographer Darwin Porter provides an interesting audio commentary stressing his knowledge of the actors and crew with occasional bits of production information thrown in.

    Theatrical Trailer (1:45, SD)

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Call of the Wild may not be very faithful to the book from which it was adapted, but on its own it’s a rollicking and engrossing adventure story with talented actors and a first-rate production. Recommended!

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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